TBR Thursday 102…

The books that aren’t there…

As part of my ridiculous TBR spreadsheet, whenever I give a book 5 stars I add the author’s name to a list to remind me to read either one of their existing books or their next one, if they’re new authors or I’ve already read all of their previous books. Every now and again I check Amazon to see if there’s any sign of the next book coming along, and generally they duly appear within a year or two. But when I last checked, I realised some of these authors had been on the list for a long time with no sign of a new book. Where are they? Are they still writing?

the luminaries blueEleanor Catton won the Booker for The Luminaries, first published in August 2013. I loved it for her careful creation of a town that I came to feel as if I had actually visited. The book was monstrous in size and scope, so perhaps she’s working on another just as ambitious, but I can’t find anything on the web that tells me when we might see a new one appear.

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money treeFor several years, Gordon Ferris was publishing books pretty regularly, every year or two. But it’s well over two years since his last book Money Tree appeared in June 2014. At the time, this was billed as the start of a new series looking at some of the world’s contemporary concerns – a series of standalones but with an overarching theme under a series name of “Only Human”. But since then, nothing – and again I can’t see anything suggesting another book is on the way soon.

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paradeShuichi Yoshida’s Parade, published in translation in March 2014, was billed as a crime book, but I felt it actually fell more into the category of literary fiction. The picture it paints of the lives of young people in Tokyo left me strangely discombobulated, as Japanese fiction often does – it’s a society that always seems in a kind of free-fall. I find Yoshida’s writing compelling, and his characters are always believable even when I don’t fully understand them. Perhaps his long absence is a translation issue rather than a writing one, but no sign of a new one on the horizon.

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after the lockoutDarran McCann’s début After the Lockout, published way back in February 2012, was an intriguing book set in Armagh in the period following the Easter Uprising. Though there was much of politics and religion in it, McCann managed to keep it at a very human level. He’s an author of whom I genuinely expected great things, but again he seems to have disappeared, at least in terms of publishing another novel.

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arzee the dwarfI positively adored Chandrahas Choudhry’s Arzee the Dwarf. Published in December 2009, it’s a deliciously bittersweet tale of one man trying to achieve his dreams in contemporary Bombay – a beautifully written depiction of this vibrant and contradictory city at odds with the picture of unrelieved misery so often given in Indian novels. Years after reading it, I still smile whenever I think of it. And I’m getting extremely impatient for another…

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The good news is that, five long years after his wonderful Last Man in Tower, a new book has finally appeared from Aravind AdigaSelection Day, which I will be reading just as soon as I can.

selection-dayThe Blurb says: Manju is fourteen. He knows he is good at cricket – if not as good as his elder brother Radha. He knows that he fears and resents his domineering and cricket-obsessed father, admires his brilliantly talented brother and is fascinated by CSI and curious and interesting scientific facts. But there are many things, about himself and about the world, that he doesn’t know . . . Everyone around him, it seems, has a clear idea of who Manju should be, except Manju himself.

But when Manju begins to get to know Radha’s great rival, a boy as privileged and confident as Manju is not, everything in Manju’s world begins to change and he is faced by decisions that will challenge both his sense of self and of the world around him.

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And here are a few more long-awaited ones that will be appearing soon (all publication dates are for the UK)…

penancePublication due 5th April 2017 from Kanae Minato, author of the dark and compelling Confessions

The Blurb says: The tense, chilling story of four women haunted by a childhood trauma.

When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emili by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emili is found murdered hours later. Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren’t able to accurately describe the stranger’s appearance to the police after the Emili’s body was discovered. Asako, Emili’s mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter’s murder.

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the-death-of-kingsPublication due 16th January 2017 from Rennie Airth, author of the Inspector Madden series set in post-war England…

The Blurb says: On a hot summer day in 1938, a beautiful actress is murdered on the grand Kent estate of Sir Jack Jessup, close friend of the Prince of Wales. An instant headline in the papers, the confession of a local troublemaker swiftly brings the case to a close, but in 1949, the reappearance of a jade necklace raises questions about the murder. Was the man convicted and executed the decade before truly guilty, or had he wrongly been sent to the gallows?

Inspector Madden is summoned out of retirement at the request of former Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair to re-open the case at Scotland Yard. Set in the aftermath of World War II, The Death of Kings is an atmospheric and captivating police procedural, and is a story of honor and justice that takes Madden through the idyllic English countryside, post-war streets of London, and into the criminal underworld of the Chinese Triads.

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the-followerPublication due 9th February 2017 from Koethi Zan, author of the dark and disturbing thriller The Never List

The Blurb says… very little: You think she’ll help you. She won’t.

A page-turning thriller about the wife of a kidnapper and her relationship with his last victim.
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the-good-peoplePublication due 9th February 2017 from Hannah Kent, author of the stunning Burial Rites

The Blurb says: Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference.

Unable to care for the child alone, Nóra hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow’s house.

Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken…

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So there’s still hope… if you can shed any light on if and when we might see new books from any of these authors, please do so in the comments. Are there any authors who’ve been on your own “avidly awaiting” list for too long?

Parade by Shuichi Yoshida

Strangely discombobulating…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

paradeFour young people are sharing a small flat in Tokyo, each having drifted there in a casual, unplanned way. Forced into a kind of physical intimacy by this living arrangement, each remains emotionally isolated and, as we discover, damaged to varying degrees by their pasts. Naoki is the eldest and something of a big brother figure to the rest – he originally shared the flat with his girlfriend, who left him for an older man but still pops back to visit and stay in the flat on occasion. Mirai works hard and plays hard, spending her evenings getting drunk in gay bars. Kotomi stays home all day watching TV and waiting for her soap-star boyfriend to ring. Ryosuke is a student and as we meet him he has just fallen in love with the girlfriend of his older friend and mentor. Then one morning a fifth arrives, Satoru – no-one really knows who invited him but in this casual set-up he soon becomes accepted as another flatmate, even though no-one is quite sure who he is or what he does when he works late at night.

Although this is billed as a crime thriller, it really falls much more into the category of literary fiction. There is a crime element but it’s almost entirely in the background for most of the book. There’s not much plot as such – this is more an examination of the somewhat empty and alienated lives of these young people. Each section of the book is narrated by a different character, so we get to see what they each think of the others and also to find out a bit about what has brought them here and made them who they are.

tokyo

Whenever I read Japanese fiction, I find it a strangely discombobulating experience – it always seems to reflect a society that is uneasy in its modernity, with a generation of young people who have thrown out the values of their elders but haven’t really found a way to replace them satisfactorily. There is always a sensation of drifting, of free-fall almost, and a kind of passivity that leaves me feeling as if there’s a dangerous void in the culture, waiting to be filled. But since I don’t know anything about Japan except through their fiction, I don’t know whether this is just a style of writing or whether it’s an accurate picture of the society.

I find Yoshida’s writing quite compelling and although I don’t always feel that I understand why his characters are as they are, I find them believable and fully rounded. The somewhat shocking ending of this one took me completely by surprise, and at first I felt almost as if the author hadn’t played fair with me. But a few days on I find the book is still running through my mind and I am seeing in retrospect what was hidden during the reading – which means that my appreciation for the ending has grown as I’ve gained a little distance from it.

Shuichi Yoshida
Shuichi Yoshida

Although this shares a translator, Philip Gabriel, with Yoshida’s first novel, I enjoyed the translation of this one much more. It is still Americanised but without the clumsy slang that irritated me so much in Villain.

On re-reading this review, I feel it isn’t giving a very clear picture of the book, and that’s actually a pretty accurate reflection of my feelings about it. I’m not sure I totally ‘got’ it (which happens to me a lot with Japanese fiction) but I am quite sure I found it a compelling and thought-provoking read. And I will most certainly be looking out for more of Yoshida’s work in future.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Vintage.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 11…

Episode 11

 

Despite some rigorous pruning the TBR remains stubbornly high at exactly 100 – and that doesn’t include all the recommendations arising from the Great American Novel Quest. Second only to all you bloggie people constantly tempting me, NetGalley is by far the worst offender…here’s just a few of the ones I couldn’t resist…

Courtesy of NetGalley:

 

black moonNot my usual fare at all and frankly I can’t remember why I picked it. But who knows, maybe it’ll be great…

…a black moon had risen, a sphere of sleeplessness that pulled at the tides of blood—an invisible explanation for the madness welling inside.

The world has stopped sleeping. Restless nights have grown into days of panic, delirium and, eventually, desperation. But few and far between, sleepers can still be found – a gift they quickly learn to hide. For those still with the ability to dream are about to enter a waking nightmare.

Kenneth Calhoun’s dark, hallucinatory and brilliantly realised debut confronts one of our deepest needs – and fears – with style, vision and a very human heart.”

*****

the future of the mindMichio Kaku always manages to make sciency stuff fairly palatable on TV, so now to find out if he can explain the mysteries of the mind simply enough for my poor mind to absorb…

“Recording memories, mind reading, videotaping our dreams, mind control, avatars, and telekinesis – no longer are these feats of the mind solely the province of overheated science fiction. As Michio Kaku reveals, not only are they possible, but with the latest advances in brain science and recent astonishing breakthroughs in technology, they already exist. In The Future of the Mind, the New York Times-bestselling author takes us on a stunning, provocative and exhilarating tour of the top laboratories around the world to meet the scientists who are already revolutionising the way we think about the brain – and ourselves.”

*****

paradeI enjoyed Shuichi Yoshida’s Villain apart from some translation issues, so will be interested to see how this one compares…

“Four twenty-somethings share an apartment in Tokyo. In Parade each tells their story: their lives, their hopes and fears, their loves, their secrets.

Kotomi waits by the phone for a boyfriend who never calls. Ryosuke wants someone that he can’t have. Mirai spends her days drawing and her nights hanging out in gay bars. Naoki works for a film company, and everyone treats him like an elder brother. Then Satoru turns up. He’s eighteen, homeless, and does night work of a very particular type.

In the next-door apartment something disturbing is going on. And outside, in the streets around their apartment block, there is violence in the air. From the writer of the cult classic Villain, Parade is a tense, disturbing, thrilling tale of life in the city.”

*****

failure and the american writerSeemed an appropriate choice since I’m intending to read so much classic American fiction this year…

“If America worships success, then why has the nation’s literature dwelled obsessively on failure? This book explores encounters with failure by nineteenth-century writers – ranging from Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville to Mark Twain and Sarah Orne Jewett – whose celebrated works more often struck readers as profoundly messy, flawed and even perverse. Reading textual inconsistency against the backdrop of a turbulent nineteenth century, Gavin Jones describes how the difficulties these writers faced in their faltering search for new styles, coherent characters and satisfactory endings uncovered experiences of blunder and inadequacy hidden in the culture at large. Through Jones’s treatment, these American writers emerge as the great theorists of failure who discovered ways to translate their own social insecurities into complex portrayals of a modern self, founded in moral fallibility, precarious knowledge and negative feelings. “

Of course, it might be entirely unreadable… 😉

*****

 

the outcast deadIt’s becoming a stretch to accept that an archaeologist gets involved in so many crimes, but I’m not quite ready to give up on the Ruth Galloway series yet…

“Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway has excavated a body from the grounds of Norwich Castle, a forbidding edifice that was once a prison.

She believes the body may be that of infamous Victorian murderess Jemima Green. Called Mother Hook for her claw-like hand, Jemima was hanged in 1867 for the murder of five children in her care.

DCI Harry Nelson has no time for long-dead killers. Immersed in the case of three infants found dead, one after the other, in their King’s Lynn home, he’s convinced that a family member is responsible, though others on his team think differently.

Then a child goes missing. Could the abduction be linked to the long-dead Mother Hook? Ruth is pulled into the case, and back towards Nelson.”

*****

All blurbs are taken from either Amazon or NetGalley.

A mixed bunch this time – I’m hoping at least some of them will be great reads…

Villain by Shuichi Yoshida

villainAftermath of a violent crime…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Somewhat let down by the clumsy Americanisation of the translation, this book is nevertheless a fascinating study of the people affected by the aftermath of a violent crime.

I found this to be very much a book of two halves. In the first we are told of the crime and introduced to the people affected by it, families and friends of both the victim and the suspects. I found the book very slow at the beginning – the author seemed obsessed by telling us the price of everything, from train fares to haircuts to road tolls. I wondered if this may have been intended to show the economic struggles Japan has faced in recent years but whatever the reason it made for tedious reading. We also received more detail than I felt necessary on the various roads around the region. I admit I did think about giving up on the book in the early stages.

This feeling was not helped by the translation which used American slang in a way that seemed terribly inappropriate to the subject matter at times. For instance, a suspect, when recounting a meeting with the father of the victim, says ‘Y’all killed mah daughter! The guy said and tried to grab me.’ This kind of thing promptly transported me out of Japan and into schlock westerns, I’m afraid.

Shuichi Yoshida
Shuichi Yoshida

However, I’m glad I read on. As the book progresses, we learn more about the people involved and get an insight into a society that seems very divided between the young and the old. At times, and especially towards the end, the book was very moving, particularly when describing the parents’ and grandparents’ love for their children whose way of life they do not understand. The victim, Yoshino, and her friends still long for the tradition of marriage but are as likely to look to form relationships online as in person, with all the dangers that that can entail. We are told a lot about the sleazy side of society: massage parlours, ‘love’ hotels, prostitution. But there is also love in this story, both romantic love and the love of family, and sacrifices made for love, and it was in these areas that I felt the book was strongest.

Not a traditional crime story by any means, I felt this book gave many insights into a rapidly changing society, a youth culture centred on the online world and, resultantly, the alienation of the different generations. If you can overlook the translation issues, this is a book well worth reading.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link